Empty Nest Syndrome – How to survive it!
Two years ago, my then, 18 year-old, middle son, decided to go to University. I was in blissful denial for months before he left, convincing myself that he would be home most weekends and holidays, and this was really no big deal. My husband kept using phrases like “he’s leaving home” and “flying the nest” but I ignored him on the grounds that he was being dramatic. After all, once my boy had got fed up of pot noodles and no one to wash his clothes, he would be home, right?
Ever since I held my first doll, I knew I needed to be a mother, and I got lucky, and we had 3, two boys and a girl. As cheesy as it sounds, for me, contributing to the miracle of life was my greatest achievement. Their first ten years of course, gave me moments of pure joy and laughter, such as nativity plays, birthday parties, beautiful home made Mother’s Day cards or just that magical cuddle when they needed you and only you. Then there was the juggling of cooking (not my strong point), nappies, school runs, and just getting through the day without too much of a drama, and I would do it all over again in a heart beat, no matter how exhausting.
When birthdays hit the “double digits” and then the dreaded teens, I began to reflect on how fast the time had flown. Suddenly, I wasn’t so needed, they could choose their own clothes, wanted to go out with their friends, bedroom doors were closed, and I was in the way, an embarrassment!
But despite the music being too loud, finding a room full of boys watching football, or my make-up bag raided by daughter, I would stop and smile, reminding myself that one day I would miss all of this, one day the house would be just far too quiet.
As my husband and Sam drove to Nottingham with a packed car full of saucepans, bed linen, and industrial packs of pasta and rice, the reality hit me like a train. I managed to hold back the tears waving him off, but it felt as if the umbilical cord had really been sliced in two this time. For weeks, it was agony for me to even walk into his bedroom, and every time a football sock turned up in the washing, the grief welled up all over again. My son no longer needed me, my job was apparently done, and when I should have been proud of his achievements and ours as parents, I was aching to turn back the clock to that time when he was driving me nuts hiding under the stairs instead of getting ready for bed, or bombarding me with 100’s of questions in the back of the car.
There is no question that for me I was grieving, I had been spoilt and lulled into a false sense of security with my eldest, he went straight from school to working as a chef, and although he has travelled with his work, he often comes home again and I get my “fix”. And now my daughter, my baby, is almost 17 and I face the last of so many things. Last school runs, last sleepovers, nightly girlie chats….
Letting go of our children and facing the empty nest is not for the faint hearted, but it’s “feeling the fear and doing it anyway”. As a therapist, I see women who really struggle with this, becoming depressed, lonely, afraid of the future, loosing a sense of purpose. Some have found solace in all the wrong places, the bottom of a wine glass or comfort eating for example, are often ways of coping.
I feel their pain but these methods just bring on more misery, only self-love and nurture should be our self-medication. Essentially, we are free to make choices for ourselves at this point. It’s time to rediscover who you actually are, to fulfil all those promises you made to yourself when you “had free time”.
Here is my code for ENS!
Remember you are never too old to try something new whether it’s a new business venture or that dance class you had your eye on.
Dream big and learn something new!
- Be more creative, and find something that really allows you to express yourself.
- Join a group of some kind, or even start one yourself. I hold Beautiful Thinking groups for women every Monday evening, we just talk about anything, just so long as we support each other. Women together are extraordinary!
- Remember that nothing lasts forever, chances are your children will be back from time to time and there might be grandchildren too, and then you will be glad you stayed fit from those dance classes.
- Seek out the lonely, there will always be someone who needs you, find them.
- Keep moving and keep busy but take care of yourself when you need to. Ask for help if you need it too, (if you cant find it, call us!)
- Enjoy your husband/partner if you have one, and if you don’t go and have some fun!